A Village Takes a New Name
I begin with a bit of trivia, just enough to give context for the stories I will share about the Wisdom from Wibaux.
A French cattleman, Pierre Wibaux, (pronounced wee-bo), was searching for ranch land and found it near a little town in Eastern Montana called Mingusville. The State of Montana is quite vast, over 600 miles east to west and over 400 miles north to south. This quaint village is located eight miles from the North Dakota border on I-94 which turns into I-90 when you get to Billings, Montana.
After living in the area for several years, Mr. Wibaux himself changed the name from Mingusville to Wibaux. How does that happen? It isn’t surprising that a full-size statue of Pierre Wibaux was erected there, facing due north where his enormous ranch was located. Furthermore, Mr. Wibaux himself paid for and built the first Roman Catholic church in the village — St. Peter’s. So as you would expect, the community in which I was raised is still 90% or more Roman Catholic and it was probably even higher when I graduated from Wibaux County High School in 1981. I will get into the religious aspect of this small town in future blogs. I have so much to share about that, particularly about the Christian Fundamental Church and its unique evangelistic methods of getting youth into the church.
An Unexpected Visitor
We lived on a hobby farm a mile out of town from the time I was born until the 8th grade. Late one winter night, there was a knocking – no, a pounding – on the door unlike anything I had heard before in my life! The sound was so loud and distinct it awoke my mother and me out of a dead sleep. We rushed out of our bedrooms to see what in the world was going on. There at the door was a very large man screaming, “let me in….let me in….let me in….!” I stood at the top of the stairwell as my mother went to the door below. She opened the door and in came this very drunk man.
We both knew him. He had a reputation for drinking too much. This, however, was the first time I had ever seen him like this. Frankly, the situation scared me, but my mother invited him to the kitchen table and turned on the coffee percolator to help sober him up. This man, whose nickname was Punk, talked loudly and pointedly about his problems and the people who had been difficult for him, particularly his wife and mother. My mother talked with this guy for several hours and finally, at about 7 a.m., she drove him home.
The next day my mother felt exhausted and I felt perplexed. I asked my mother about Punk. She offered the quote you may have heard before, “There is good in the worst of us and there is bad in the best of us. Don’t ever talk about this to anyone because he deserves his privacy as he tries to get his life back together.” We never spoke about the incident again for a very long time.
The Unexpected Visitor Returns, Unexpectedly
In fact, it was almost 10 years later. We were sitting in the Palace Café and in comes Punk. Sober. He came up to our booth on a Friday night as we were eating fried chicken –our weekly custom. I found myself watching Punk rather intently, wondering what he was going to say or do. He sat down next to my mother sitting across from me.
“I wanted to let you know that last Sunday night at the Christian Fundamental Church I gave my life to the Lord,” he said. “I truly believe I am a new man in Christ.” There was a pause and this big burly man cleared his choked up throat and said with tears in his eyes, “I will never forget how you took me in that night when I was at my worst. You will never know how much that meant to me. Thank you!” He patted my mother on the arm and got up.
Of course, there were people in town counting the days until Punk fell off the proverbial wagon. But I can tell you, every Sunday morning and evening from that day until I left for college, Punk’s pickup truck was in the line of cars at the CF Church. God’s grace did something amazing in Punk and he was never the same. Many years later, Punk died in his sleep of an apparent massive heart attack. When I read the obituary from my hometown newspaper, The Wibaux Gazette, which I still take to this day, I could not help but remember that winter night a long time ago.
The Wisdom From Wibaux
I will never forget the Wisdom from Wibaux my mother taught me about people like Punk. Jesus never gives up on us and therefore we should never give up on each other. No one is a hopeless case. Each one of us is a masterpiece in the making. In case you don’t believe me, check out Matthew 9:10-11 and Ephesians 2:10.
Next week…a story about my neighbor Pappy.